Responding to a question about an American man who has been kidnapped by North Korea and reportedly given 15 years hard labor, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney Thursday raised the prospect of talks with Kim Jong-Un.
From the gaggle aboard on Air Force One during President Obama’s flight to Mexico City:
Q The North Koreans have sentenced an American man to 15 years hard labor. Does the U.S. see this as an attempt by the North Koreans to get some kind of high-profile visit or start any kind of talks with the U.S.?
MR. CARNEY: Well, we’ve seen those reports, Julie, and we’re working with our protecting power, the Embassy of Sweden in Pyongyang, to confirm them. We don’t have any further information to share with you.
Separate from that issue, the issue of talks — we have made clear that there is a path open to the North Koreans that would allow for negotiations, but it is dependent upon the North Koreans demonstrating a willingness to live up to their international obligations in keeping with the 2005 — September 2005 joint statement of the six-party talks. And if they choose that path, then we and other members of that — of the six-party talks are absolutely willing to have discussions with the North Koreans.
But thus far, as you know, they have flouted their obligations, engaged in provocative actions and rhetoric that brings them no closer to a situation where they can improve the lot of the North Korean people or reenter the community of nations.
Carney sought to divide the imprisonment from the offer of talks with the phrase “separate from that issue.” But offering talks to the North Koreans as part of a response to a question about the kidnapping is a dangerous mistake that may well signal to Kim that the United States is responding to his provocative action with a concession.
North Korean leaders have over the years routinely saber rattled and even kidnapped foreigners in the hope of getting concessions from the West. As part of the most recent episode, Kim has aslo been threatening to launch missiles.